Category Archives: Family History blogging

Reflections on “The Ultimate Sacrifice” at Memorial Day

As a historian for the family, I was racking my brain to think of any relative I actually knew, who got killed while serving. And I apologize in advance for that: if anyone in the family reads this and brings to mind a fallen hero cousin–please comment or message me and I will update this post. Sadly, many fallen soldiers were young and unmarried when they served and died, and so their ancestral line ended with them. 
Here’s a story of my 3rd cousin twice removed, who was shot down in 1943 (the war ended in 1945). This came from an old newspaper clipping, which didn’t include the date or the publication name, but from some clues, I think it was in the Belvidere (IL) Daily Republican  7 Nov  2007.  The code number after his name is a Personal Identifier Number for him on the Familysearch.org web site.  If you already have a free familysearch.org account with a pedigree chart in place, you may be able to see some pictures of your ancestors’ tombstones using this link , which  represents a collaboration between Familysearch and the BillionGraves sites. 

Europe’s Air War Kills 3 BHS Pals; Another Is POW

by Dave Grimm

As the nation’s “Greatest Generation” breaks ground on the long overdue World War Two memorial in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, Nov. 10, in time for a Veteran’s Day 55 years after the end of that crucial conflict, it is time to reflect on one of its most poignant chapters. It is the tale of three young men, two from the Belvidere High School class of 1937, and another a few years behind. Another from the class of 1937 was a friend who was to serve as courier of news about the others. All were members of various units of what was, in that era, the United States Army Air Corps, now the United States Air Force. Three of the four never returned to Belvidere, another was imprisoned for more than a year, until September, 1944, in Rumania, which was until early 1945 under the occupation of Nazi Germany before liberation by the Russians moving their Red Army juggernaut westward to finally crush the Third Reich and its 12-year reign of terror in Europe. Three of the classmates were crewmen on B-24 Consolidated “Liberator” bombers, huge, four-engined, twin-tailed aerial behemoths capable of carrying a minimum crew of eight, more than half a dozen Browning .50 caliber machine guns and over a ton of bombs long distances at high altitudes. These cigar-shaped monsters with their 70 feet of tapered wingspan were chosen to fly into Rumania to a place called Ploesti (pronounced approximately plo-yest-ee) north of the the nation’s capitol, Bucharest.

Few people in America outside the petroleum and international transportation industries had ever heard of the place but it was indeed famous, not only in Europe but worldwide as the center of the world’s oil production, indeed the birthplace of the oil industry, since it had contained the first producing petroleum well in the world a decade before the same feat was accomplished in 1859 in Titusville, PA, in the United States. In the intervening years, the area became the center for oil production for not-only Europe but also various other markets abroad. For this reason, one of the first items on Adolph Hitler’s timetable of aggression was the seizure, occupation and, most important, defense of the mammoth oil-producing and refining area. At the height of its usage by the Nazis, Ploesti was to become the supplier of the gasoline, diesel and heating fuel, lubricants and aviation gas for one-half of the German war machine, ground, sea and air. Many multinational oil companies had refineries there, including a French firm with the highest production capacity in the world. Standard Oil of Indiana also had a refinery which American engineers had built several years before the war. Following several months of planning as well as one ill-fated and rather ill-advised air raid into Ploesti as well as several raids by Russian aircraft prior to America’s entry into the European fray, it was decided that a lowlevel raid by heavy bombers would have the advantage of surprise as well as accuracy in an attempt to deprive Hitler of his most valuable non-human resource. This raid would take place Aug. 1, 1943.

The major problem with the strategists’ theory was that the Allied forces were still in North Africa, having just defeated the Afrika Korps and had yet to invade Sicily and Italy to provide bases 500 miles closer to Rumania. This raid was to take off from Benghazi in eastern Libya, fly across the Mediterranean to Greece, then Albania, then Yugoslavia, then Bulgaria and finally into Rumania. Once inside that country’s borders, the bombers would take a course indicating a raid on Bucharest, then take a heading to the oil center, do their grisly work and return the way they had come. Planes in trouble would continue east- ward to land in Turkey, Bulgaria and Cyprus. There would be no fighter protection, since no fighters or fighter bombers were available with the range capable of accompanying the bomber stream. The 178 planes and crews would be on their own and once arriving at the target, they would fly in at smokestack level, deliver their deadly loads on preselected targets which had been drummed into the heads of both pilots and bombardiers and hopefully, fly out with minimum casualties.

In three separate planes in three separate bomb groups, two members of Belvidere High School’s class of 1937 and one from the class of 1942 took their places in the predawn dark of Aug. 1. They were First Lieutenant Jack Lanning and technical sergeants Kenneth Holroyd and Arthur White. Lanning was a co-pilot and the enlisted men were flight engineers who also served as tail turret gunners. Lanning, back in bucolic Belvidere, had been president of his senior class and Holroyd had served as vice-president. Lon Byram, another member of the class was to provide news back to Belvidere of the fate of both men. He was later killed in an air crash in England. Both Lanning and Byram were members of th Bucs’ varsity football team. The two Ploesti raid participants weren’t to return to Boone County. Lanning went down in his plane, ”Wingo-Wango,” in the Ionian Sea. Witnesses said the plane crashed on the way to target for no apparent reason, just beginning to spin out of control and crash without communication with his fellows. Holroyd survived the raid but died several weeks later in an air training crash. White, however, lived a saga which is almost beyond belief in its content of luck and courage.

The raid, contrary to plan, produced no surprise as it had been tracked by both German spotters and radar nearly from its point of takeoff. Ploesti, in addition, had the most heavily defended anti-aircraft system in the world, thanks to a commander whose genius at defending against air attack earned him a twelve-year imprisonment in Russia after WWII ended. Also, contrary to plan, the lead bomber group made a wrong turn and headed for Bucharest rather than Ploesti to its north. Following groups changed the flow of the bomber stream, although it was a breach of orders, and made the proper approach to the target and made their bomb runs according to their navigators’ flight plans, leavmg the miscreant group to correct its error and arrive at Ploesti to find its targets in a high state of smoking ruin. But, in the process, many of the raiders themselves were in smoking ruins from the murderous crossfire thrown up by the German defenses which ranged from flak towers atop the tallest of the distillation plants to machine gun and cannon emplacements camoflaged as haystacks in the fields surrounding the ring of refineries and supporting pipelines and storage tanks which ringed the city of Ploesti proper.

Medals of Honor were given posthumously to pilots who flew their bombers into flaming storage tanks while gasoline streamed from their long-range fuel tanks which had been ruptured by the flak. Miraculously, other aircraft returned to Benghazi unscathed despite an almost constant attack by fighters of German, Rumanian and Bulgarian air defense squadrons. 55 aircraft returned out of the original 178 which mounted the raid. One of those which didn’t return was “Boilermaker 2” which was shot down and landed in a field north of Ploesti near the village of Timisul which was a prison camp although much different than what most Allied prisoners of war were used to. It was a castle belonging to a noble Rumanian family named Kantecazine and a princess of the royal family took the survivors under her wing, protecting them as well as survivors from several other aircraft and interceding with both the German and Rumanian military administrations for good treatment. Art White was one of these prisoners. As a member of the BHS class of 1942 he entered military service in that year, shortly after graduation from high school. Life, according to White in a statement to his wife, could have been worse. “There are a lot worse prison camps to be in,” was his assessment, she recalled. – This imprisonment, from which he was released when the Russians overran the area in September, 1944, included visits to the neighboring village, marching outside the barbed wire enclosure to chapel services for both Catholic and Protestant prisoners, and access to not only locally produced foodstuffs and spirits, was a far cry from the morning of departure when, his widow recalled, when the assembled crews nearly all felt that the mission was suicide and that none of them would be coming back. White had the honor of being interned with a wartime celebrity, British airman Douglas Collins, whose escape exploits from various POW cams took him from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea and became the backdrop for several British and American movies about wartime prisoner of war camps. With Collins, he managed to escape by tunneling from Timisul beneath the wire but was recaptured, beaten and returned to incarceration. According to his daughter, Barbara Feltz, he always remained quiet about his exploits and experiences during WWII until 1980 when a grandson approached him about an interview regarding his wartime experiences for an emergency assignment. White related his story on tape and caused quite a stir among local historians in area schools and the tale was finally told to the Chicago Historical Society. Needless to say, the story earned the grandson five A’s for the effort. Arthur White died in 1981 at the age of 56, shortly after his story was told. He-was a carpentry contractor until his death.

The Ploesti raid did little immediate damage to Hitler’s oil supply lthough it is believed to have caused a shortage enough to induce the German war machine to begin turning its attention to much greater dependence on synthetic oil research, many products are still sold today when their formulae were taken from German scientists following the Axis surrender. By the time White was released, the Allies were bombing Ploesti night and day, much as they did Germany. By the time of the Russian liberation of Rumania, there had been 23 heavy bombing raids with 9,173 individual fighter and bomber sorties logged and 13,709 tons of explosives had been dropped. To the credit of the Rumanians, the Ploesti plants were still able to produce 20 percent of their full capacity.

TELEGRAM FROM WAR DEPARTMENT SAYS BOMBARDIER WAS IN ACTION IN MIDDLE EASTERN AREA –BELIEVED CERTAIN TO HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN RAID ON OIL FIELDS IN RUMANIA IN WHICH 20 BOMBERS WERE LOST. Lieutenant Jack B. Lanning, son of .Mr, and Mrs, A .J. Lanning, 921 East Lincoln avenue, Belvidere, is reported “missing in action” by the war department. The forenoon the following telegram was received: Washington, D. C. Aug. 7, 1943. Mrs. Abe J Lanning, 921 East Lincoln Avenue, Belvidere, Illinois, Regret to Inform you report received your Son, First Lieutenant Jack B .Lanning, mlssing in action in middle eastern area since Aug. 1. If further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified. ULIO, The Adjutant General.

Sorry that it makes for such a long read, but there’s some pretty fascinating history there.

Our son was thinking of staying home today, rather than getting up at sunrise and putting on his dress blues to march in a parade. But in all good conscience, he did. Happy Memorial Day, and if you feel like entering a comment about your relative who made the ultimate sacrifice, we do appreciate it!

Mission BBQ jenny skip
[photo taken last November; son is the one in the dress blues 3rd from left] and grandson at the front

Prototype Walking Stick

 

We have planned our annual family reunion [aka get away] for this year to be Rumbling Bald at Lake Lure.  From what I understand this is where parts of the original Dirty Dancing movie were shot. Anyway since there are several hiking trails and lots of scenic spots to walk, I thought it would be a good project to make everyone a walking or hiking stick.  This meant mass producing 38 walking sticks!!  These would break down into two sections and fit into a carry bag which my wife would sew together from canvas.  Well the reunion is fast approaching and I just finished the prototype.  So maybe next year!! They might still work if we have a beach get away!

After some investigation, I found that the ideal length of a stick suitable for hiking and walking should be a length determined by holding your arm at your side at a right angle and measure the distance from your out-stretched hand to the floor. I made a cartoon illustrating this measurement and sent it out to all the families. Fortunately for this year, very few people responded.  I picked one of the kids that did respond who also loves hiking and camping, and used his measurement for the prototype…. 41 inches.

The design was comprised of a decorative topper with a lanyard and compass, a wood upper section 1 1/8 inches in diameter with a standardized length of 24 inches, a wood bottom section with a length customized to the user, a brass coupling to connect and unconnect the two sections, and a brass fitting on the bottom section to accommodate an interchangeable tip, a stainless steel point and a rubber point.

hiking stick jenny skip
Finished hiking stick

The topper was padauk cut to a 6 inch length, a hole drilled for the lanyard and then turned on the lathe to a pleasing shape.  This topper tapered down to 1 1/8 inch diameter to mate with the upper section of the walking stick.  The topper was sanded up to 320grit and then friction polish applied. For a finishing touch, I laser engraved the user’s name on the topper.

cane topper jenny skip
laser engraved topper with leather lanyard

A 2 foot length of 6/4 mahogany was ripped to a square cross section and then turned on the lathe to 1 1/8 inch diameter using a spindle roughing gouge.  The spindle was then off set from center slightly and grooves cut at the upper end to enhance the grip on the stick.  The spindle was sanded up to 320 grit, given two coats of dark walnut stain followed up by friction polish. This resulted in a beautiful finish. However for a walking stick with a lot of outdoor use, maybe a wiping polyurethane finish may have been better.  We will see as my son is going to give this prototype a good working out as a test.

hand grooves jenny skip
Grooves cut into the walking stick where the hand grips it

The topper was attached to the upper section of the walking stick with a dowel. The bottom of the stick was drilled with a 3/8-inch bit to a depth of 1 inch so that one end of the brass coupling could be inserted with epoxy.

The bottom section of the walking stick was produced much like the top section, only cut to length to provide the overall 41 inch length.  Two distinct differences, however, in its construction. On one end of the spindle a 1 inch long 12.8 degree taper was turned using a bedan.  The other end of the spindle was countersunk with a 7/8 inch Forstner bit and then a 3/8 inch hole drilled in the center. This allowed me to insert the other part of the brass coupling in the recess so when the two parts were screwed together, you would not see the brass coupling and the joint would be difficult to discern.  I could have done this drilling on the lathe but the bottom section of the walking stick was too long for me to mount a drill chuck on the lathe with a bit with the lathe bed I was using.

Here’s the You tube video that shows some of the process details.

I installed the coupling, the brass fitting for the walking stick tip, the leather lanyard with a nice silver bead on the end [compliments of my wife’s bead stash] and glued a small compass on the top of the topper.  DONE!!  And maybe done for a year.  It will be mailed off to one of my sons for testing.  I am also concerned that the coupling between the two sections of the walking stick may be a weak link. We’ll see if it holds up or if my son ends up careening down an abyss later this summer.

compass on top jenny skip
compass on top

Post-trip Sketching and Planning

There’s something about travel that changes your perspective so much. When you get back from a trip, you can see more clearly things you’ve done that are unproductive. You may have seen a new way to deal with a problem during your travels.

American Way mag
photo of a Karass advert page from the in-flight magazine on the airplane

Especially when it comes to every day surroundings and routines, you can see what doesn’t work and what didn’t have a desired outcome.  You can see why you need to get away and look at a problem with that fresh perspective.

A few cases in point:

When I go on a trip, I usually carry cosmetics and stuff in a blue plastic Caboodles box (it looks like a tackle box or a tool box). Finally, that thing split down the back and once it was clamped shut, it was so hard to un-shut that I ripped all the skin off a knuckle trying to pry it open. Now that I don’t have the plastic box, I came up with a couple of alternative carrying cases to take on trips, and realized what a clunky liability that plastic case had been.

We have more that just a washer and dryer in our laundry room, we also have a rug shampooer, a big bulky canister vacuum cleaner, several mops, brooms, etc., and a collection of seasonal wreaths to hang on the front door. This room is not big enough to hold all that stuff plus ourselves when we need to wash clothes.  Skip realized (while I was gone) that we have a hall closet near the front door that we never consider using, because it is so crammed full of – I don’t even know what’s in there. Possibly old camping equipment from the seventies, hats that no one wears, who knows?  If we get rid of that stuff we haven’t seen in a decade or more, we would have more room for the useful stuff!

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to do more sketching, and more art work in general. I want to get into Inkscape, a free vector drawing program, so we can use it to make projects in other media, like wood, plastic, laser engraving, and 3D printing. Does anyone have any experience in Inkscape,  who can offer some insight?

Meanwhile, I’m acclimating back to the local humidity and heat. Summertime all year round!

yoga sketching jennyskip
yoga sketching

 

Philly Fun in Philly

Looks like my trip to Philadelphia is coming to an end 😶. Glad to get home but will miss the loving family members on this side of the country!

I got to visit my cousin Ben at the Franklin Institute

Related to Ben jennyskip)
Cousin Ben (from the ancestry.com ap We’re Related)
Ben jennyskip
Ben Franklin at his Institute

I found some great unique sewing paraphernalia at the Quilt Academy in Bensalem. We dropped in while they were having a class going on. What a friendly and fun group!

Swag jennyskip
Quilting swag
Ducks on Delware jennyskip
The shop’s Row by Row project for 2015–so adorable with its fishie buttons
2016 Row by Row jennyskip
More shape buttons and fabric in the 2016 kit

I’m sort of new to the whole Row by Row Experience thing but I love the idea, it’s shop-hopping to several quilt shops that have a custom pattern for a row, then adding all the rows together. The idea is to get 8 rows to complete a quilt. Not everyone will go to the same shops, so not all the finished quilts will look exactly the same. The new one for 2017 starts in June. Therefore, I’ve been going around collecting some of the patterns from previous years. Not sure how I will put these older rows together…or if I will just make a one-row project so as not to blend the different themes. Future project….

I got to sample a bunch of the local cuisine.

Cheese steaks jennyskip
Cheese steaks

You know they are called “Philly Cheese Steaks” elsewhere in the world, but just “Cheese Steaks” when you’re here.

Mission BBQ with Old Bay seasoned French fries (AKA crab fries)
Bay B Q jennyskip
Regional Bay-B-Q sauce, made with you-know-what
Water ice jennyskip
Chocolate gelati & coconut water Ice

I got some updates to my knowledge of the Marvel Universe watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in a theater with reclining plushy seats. I could write a post about all the subliminal gags and messages in that movie…

Best of all, I got to hang out with family in the amazing historical city of brotherly love!

Historic Foundations for our Mother’s Day Holiday

Spending Mother’s Day in Philadelphia this year with some of my posterity! And having a great time!

Mothers day breakfast jennyskip
Mother’s Day breakfast buffet at home

Skip wanted all the kids to know that one of his ancestors, his first cousin twice removed, to be exact, is the ACTUAL originator of Mother’s Day [not Anna Jarvis, as most sources claim].

Sources that credit Anna Jarvis: NPR transcript from 2016, Wikipedia, Night Terror News,  the Smithsonian,  and Facebook

However, some sources also give credit to others who played a part in the establishment of Mother’s Day as a national US holiday.

Sources that give credit to others, including Skip’s relative Mary Towels Sasseen: Books Tell You Why, Kentucky for Kentucky, The Gleaner, Facebook page of McCracken County, KY, Time.com, and Henderson County KY History.

From the various accounts, apparently Mary Towels Sasseen Wilson had success organizing Mother’s Day celebrations and assemblies in Kentucky and several other large cities in the country. She died in 1906, at the birth of her only child. After her death, Anna Jarvis’ work petitioning government officials bore fruit, and Mother’s Day was declared a national holiday.

From some accounts, Anna Jarvis later went on a huge campaign to undo the holiday status of the day, because she felt that it quickly became a crutch for greedy vendors to reap profits pandering flowers, gifts, restaurant meals, and greeting cards so they could make money. We went against the wishes of Anna Jarvis and partied it up with gifts, cards, and flowers, and special meals. 🙂

special jennyskip
special day breakfast*

Happy Mother’s Day y’all.

 

 

 

 

*these flowers are actually from a dear friend for another occasion, but they still look beautiful a week later!

 

People and Things From the Past

Long time, no post!

We’ve each been sucked in to pursuits other than Crafting in the 21st Century recently: Skip has been moving wood into a new woodshed and pondering a new series of lectures he wants to do involving some of the many antique tools languishing about the place. Check out the trailer:

I’ve been consumed by my OTHER hobby, family history.

My mom passed away a few years ago, and although I’ve looked through the several boxes of her family history files here and there, it was just a few weeks ago that I felt that I should really get into it and do something with all the data that she collected during her lifetime.

In the boxes, I found letters to and from people who gave her pedigree information, notes from Historical Society meetings, receipts from Vital Records bureaux, from back to the days when first-class postage was 2 cents. She would go to a county courthouse or a library, and copy passages from books in long-hand, because there wasn’t a photocopy machine back then. [And her handwriting wasn’t the easiest to decipher, but who, besides me, can decipher it?]

She compiled a book about one of the ancestors, born in 1740, and now I have her notes and correspondence from that. Sometimes I’ve looked up things on websites, and been ecstatic at the new data I found about one of the ancestors, only to go to her files and discover that she already had that piece of information, for which she actually paid money to a record researcher, but somehow the information never got recorded on a chart  or got lost.

She wrote out reams of family group sheets and pedigree charts. At the bottom of each one is a list of her sources. I can now look up some of the books she found, in Google, and many have been digitized and are available online for free. Awesome; if I can’t read her writing, I can sometimes look up the source and the page number, and voilá, it comes up online, like magic. I just copy and paste the URL of the source document on my online pedigree chart, and it is there for another cousin to search up and collaborate with.

Probably the site I love to work in most, is Familysearch.org. I love the Sourcelinker, the Search Records functions, the Wiki. And the site is free. How in the world can so much information be available to the public for free? I know, because I served as a volunteer support person for the site for 3 years. And, in that role, I became aware of the fact that the site carries a global tree, seeing as how we are all part of one big huge family, and anyone can supplant your data with their data, and you can’t cry foul about the outcome. So I’ve been transferring lots of the information I have into some of the other sites that have individual trees, which can’t be changed by anyone but the owner. Those sites are excellent, too. Family history has become such a popular hobby, and more records are being added all the time to help with the ongoing research.

It’s been great to find that some of my female progenitors also sewed, quilted, and crafted during their time in mortality.

gggmother jenny skip
Maternal great-great grandmother

This female progenitor grew up in New Brunswick, the daughter of a Canadian and a Scottish immigrant. She crossed the border  to work at a textile mill in Maine, where she met her future husband.

grandma, Marg jenny skip
my grandmother (on the right) and her sister

These sisters came to the US with their family in 1912. They came equipped with phenomenal knitting skills!

grandad and mother
grandfather and his mother

I have the remnants of a crazy quilt made by this great-grandmother, in beautiful mauves and beiges and indigo fabrics.

Family history: another “craft” using 21st Century Technology to document and delve into the past! Amazing, isn’t it, how clear and beautiful are these photographs that have survived many decades!

 

 

A Little Mermaid with Remnants

Google “Mermaid Blanket” and, would you believe, you’ll get way over nine million results!

Mermaid blanket jennyskip
results for Mermaid Blanket

Mermaid blankets were one of the “it” gifts for Christmas this past year, for a  girl toddler,  teen or tween relative. Some were knitted, crocheted, and sewn from fabric. I didn’t jump onto the trend wagon, but I saw on Social Media that many big and little girls were posing with their fishtail blankies for the camera.

I found a couple of remnants that might go together as a cute mermaid blanket. What do you think?

fish tail remnant fabrics
fish tail remnant fabrics

This size blanket is for a tiny four-year old. The blanket sheath is a polyester teal metallic mermaid fleece, 57 inches wide, remnant of .972 yard. The tail fin is from a remnant that I’ve had in the stash for eons, no idea where it came from. It’s a stiff, satiny, iridescent fabric that looks pink from one direction and purple from another. The saran-wrap looking flap on both sides of the tail is a Bumi Pearlized sheer lilac remnant just less than a yard in length.

fish tail jennyskip
fish tail

No pattern was used in the creation of this project. I just folded the pink/purple fabric, double,  in half and sketched a tail fin  shape on one side so that the fold was down the center of the fish tail, then cut it out. Thus, the tail was symmetrical on both sides. Then I unfolded it and seamed it together on all sides except for the opening at the top. Then I turned it inside out and pressed it, so that the edges carried that fishy curve.

It would have been perfect if the pearlized fabric was the same size, so I could have just duplicated it and made a casing for the purple satin. But the pearlized remnant was smaller than the finished tail. So I played with the idea of attaching the pearly fabric as a ruched flap on either side of the tail, so it would flutter and swish like a real fish’s tail swerving around in water. Maybe a hair-brained notion, but there it is.

plume-y tail jennyskip
the plume-y tail

After ruching the sheet of pearl in several places (centers, sides, and diagonally at corners), I cut a slit in the top fold, and since the slit ended up being a few inches longer than the tail side of the blanket, I sewed a basting stitch around the edges of the slit and drew it together, pulling on the basting thread, until it matched the size of the satin tail. Then I sewed the pearl fabric on to the satin tail at the top. Turning the blanket fabric inside out, and matching it up to the opening of the tail, with right sides of blanket and tail together (a fabric sandwich of blanket, wrong side up, on top;  pearl right side up, in the center; and satin, right side up, on the bottom) sewed tail to blanket in a 5/8″ seam, making sure the pearl material was lying flat at the seam line inside.

Continuing to play around, I hemmed the top edge with a rounded Short Serpentine stitch:

hemmed edge mermaid jennyskip
hemmed edge

It’s still a little chilly at night. This can be a toddler blanket or a grown-up foot warmer. Or maybe the kids can use it as a costume for Let’s Pretend, maybe a little kid version of  Cosplay.

little mermaid jennyskip
little mermaid

While technically not a quilt, it is a blanket that is pieced together so it’s pretty close…happy #NationalQuiltingDay and hope to see how others celebrated the day as well!

Reverse Engineering a Springtime Sewing Project

Last week was our Spring Break and we did a whole lot of nothing.

Not complaining,,,not exactly. Our little “first world” problems are not really problems, but choices. We did a lot of householder-type things. And we helped and connected with some other people in our sphere of acknowledgement, ha ha, our little universe. How do you decide if a project is worthy of your time, talent, and trouble?

One thing I took on was to fix some pillows at the request of someone in my circle who takes care of an elderly fellow.

before jennyskip
needlework pillows, before

 

wool pillows jennyskip
underside, wool fabric

Someone in the old man’s life had done a marvelous job of creating the needlepoint canvases on these beauties, which now showed a faded frog (?) on a toadstool in the rain and a green polka-dotted slug (?) under a cascade of spring flowers. The pillows themselves looked to be handmade out of a sumptuous yellow wool fabric. But apparently a dog had used them for sport, and the stuffing was popping out of a number of unsightly shreds.

The first step was to undo. The manual equivalent of the “undo” link was to rip out all the seams so that the pillow pieces were left intact,

undoing needlepoint jennyskip
Undoing the stitching to salvage the needlepoint (to the left is the new fabric)

to be used as patterns for the replacement fabric. It turned out to be the first real workout I had with the lovely seam ripper Skip made for me, by turning it on the lathe (see kit here).

seam ripper jennyskip
seam ripper
pattern jennyskip
using the old pieces as a pattern

I also saved the cording that was inside the piping edges, two strips of piping for each pillow. The new fabric was a piece of cotton (as far as I know) I had in the stash.

piping jennyskip
creating new piping with old cording

The machine has a special foot that I love to use when applying mini-piping, the pre-packaged kind made by Wright’s, but that little groove was not going to work with this larger cording.  So I used the narrow zipper foot, an attachment that is handy for a lot of tasks.

narrow zipper foot Viking jennyskip
narrow zipper foot

Next, I needed to sew the piping onto the new pillow backs, and then onto the side panels.

side panel pillow jennyskip
attaching a side panel

On the first pillow, I went ahead and attached the top piping to the side panel, then sewed the needlepoint panel on 3 sides to the sandwich of piping and side panel. The fourth side would be hand-stitched after the fabric was turned inside out and stuffed with the pillow form. On the second pillow, I sewed the piping directly to the needlepoint panel, then sewed the piped needlepoint piece onto the side panel: I believe this is how the pillow was originally made because I could see the hand-stitching that closed the opening in between piping and panel, after the pillow had been turned inside out and stuffed.

hand stitching jennyskip
hand-stitching the opening between the piping and side panel
stuffed pillow jennyskip
turned, stuffed, and ready to be hand-stitched

On the pillow in the forefront above, I hand-stitched directly to the needlepoint canvas, which I didn’t really feel good about, because the machine-stitched one behind it will probably hold up better. I reused the original down pillows, which were scrunched-up a lot inside the smaller pillow casings. But apparently that’s how the owner liked them and they’re very cushiony.

Eucalon sponge bath jennyskip
Eucalan sponge bath

The needlepoint panels were a little faded and soiled-looking, but I didn’t know if I should try to wash them. I finally went to the yarn store and procured a bottle of Eucalan, a highly recommended no-rinse washing preparation for wool and other delicate fabrics. As the brand name hints, it’s made from eucalyptus oil and lanolin. The lady at Yarn Works cautioned that the article shouldn’t be soaked in a liquid because that would remove the sizing from the needlepoint canvas. So I mixed about a spoonful in a bowl of warm water and dabbed a clean wash cloth in it, then wrung it out and gently rubbed it over the smudgy areas of the needlepoint. It didn’t come out looking brand-new; actually I can’t tell any difference in the color or brightness, but after it dried it smelled a little better than before.

I wonder what the story was behind those little pillows–were they made by his wife, who has been gone for a few years now? Or were they made by another family  member or a cherished friend? I hope they bring to mind a little spring-time cheer!

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Redo with Stone and Wood

 

Recently my wife “suggested” that it might be time to upgrade our countertops from 25 year old grey Formica to granite.

old Formica countertops

So off to the big box store to look at granite samples.  Way too many choices!! But we found a sample we liked so we pulled out the check book and started what turned out to be a very efficient process, unlike any I have ever experienced.  Soon after selecting the sample, someone showed up to develop a template for cutting the granite.  A week or so later we got an email inviting us to go to Tallahassee to inspect our granite slabs. In lieu of making the trip we asked for photos and got a gallery of shots showing us what our slabs looked like. Once we approved the slabs, we soon got a call to schedule the installation. Two very experienced installers showed up, removed the old countertops in a manner so as to not damage them, so they could be recycled to a friend’s home needing new countertops, and installed our new countertops and cleaned up before leaving for home.  The next day a plumber showed up to reinstall the kitchen sink.

sink jennyskip
Same sink

This is when I got the bright idea to “upgrade” the kitchen cabinets by adding some wood trim to the cabinet doors.  The cabinets, despite their age, are in great shape.

new, old jennyskip
new counters, same old plain cabinets

I picked out some red oak from the shop and milled out a piece about 3/16 inches thick, 1 ½ inches wide and long enough to fit on a cabinet door.  I then picked out a couple stains which I thought might match some colors in the new countertops and passed this by my wife.

woods finishes jennyskip
some of the various woods and finishes

She picked the golden oak stain as applied to the red oak, two applications followed by a clear coat.  After the selection of the stain, I showed my wife a selection of cabinet handles in the Lee Valley catalog.  A copper and bronze handle seemed to be the best selection for working with the wood, countertops and existing cabinet finish.  The wood strips would be applied to the opening edge of each cabinet door as an accent to the cabinets linking them to the colors in the granite.

After the handles arrived it was time to get to the wood working. Pieces of red oak were cut and milled to size, sanded and finished with stain. The plan was to fasten the handles to the wood strips and then fasten the wood strips to the doors.  Of course the screws which came with the handles were too long, made for ¾ inch thick doors and not 3/16 inch thick trim.  Off to Ace Hardware, where I found 8x32x1/2 inch machine screws to fasten the handles.  Since the wood strips were to be fastened to the cabinet doors, the screw heads had to be recessed in the wood trim.  I used a Kreg cabinet jig to drill the mounting holes in the wood trim for the handles.  Using a Forstner bit set to drill to a depth approximately equal to the screw head thickness, I lined up the mounting holes with the Forstner bit and drilled a countersink for the screw heads.

attaching handles jennyskip
attaching handles to wood strip

After mounting all the handles, it was time to start applying these to the doors.  I marked and drilled two holes on each door to allow screws to be inserted from the back of the door into the wood trim. I then applied thick CA glue to the back of the trim, sprayed the door with accelerator and applied the wood with clamps. When the glue had set, I drove screws from the back side of the door to further secure the wood trim.

wood accent with handles jennyskip
wood accents with handles

We were both happy with the outcome.  Now, on to the kitchen drawers, wood trim on the top edge of the drawer fronts with a matching bronze/copper knob.

Here’s a You-tube of the whole process so far:

 

Raised Bed Garden Love!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Our garden is about 3 months old now, so we wanted to post a little something to show the progress.

It’s exciting to roll with the possibilities, puzzling to respond to the problems!

Possibilities:

Fresh, wonderful, veggies and fruits

Interesting new recipes, tried-and-true old recipes

Reading about gardening, talking about it with friends

Combining rows of plants that are compatible

 

Problems:

Something has been nibbling on the cabbage leaves

The Savoy Cabbage died off for some unknown reason

What to do when it gets cold enough to freeze

 

Here’s a tiny documentary of our progress:

Meanwhile, we’ve been enjoying the fruits of our labors.

broccoli jenny skip
fresh-picked and lightly steamed broccoli for dinner
quinoa burgers jennyskip
Quinoa burgers with fresh parsley from our garden

The quinoa burgers recipe came from the cookbook Eating the Alkaline Way. It has some unusual ingredients, but we found it to be very tasty! (Even Skip! Normally he can’t even pronounce the word “quinoa” without a smirk, haha!)